HP Photosmart D7160
There are faster photo printers but few as versatile as the HP Photosmart D7160. If you're looking for a dedicated photo printer that can churn out high-quality photos quickly, this isn't the printer for you. If you need an all-purpose printer that can produce excellent text prints as well as good photos, however, the $150 Photosmart D7160 might fit the bill. It has some odd shortcomings, but overall, we liked this printer for casual home users. The slightly more expensive HP Photosmart D7360 offers more features, but slightly slower print speeds and the Canon Pixma iP6700D will give you better and faster photo prints, at the expense of text prints.
The HP Photosmart D7160's design closely resembles that of the Photosmart D7360, with some minor differences. The body, which is glossy white and matte gray, measures 18.2 inches wide, 15.3 inches deep, and 6.8 inches tall, and weighs 17 pounds. The D7160's color LCD measures 2.4 inches on the diagonal. A handful of buttons comprise the control panel and include buttons that let you navigate the onscreen menu, call up a print preview, zoom, rotate, and make minor fixes to images. Behind a clear plastic door is a panel of media card readers; the printer accepts most major media card types, though a few require adapters. The built-in USB port can be used as a PictBridge port for printing directly from cameras. You can also purchase a USB adapter to print wirelessly from Bluetooth phones, cameras, or PDAs. You can even connect an iPod to the USB port and print JPEG photos from it.
The D7160's paper-handling system is combined into a single tray that juts out from the front of the printer. The top tray serves as the output tray and includes an extension arm to keep long prints under control. The output tray lifts up to reveal two input trays; the dedicated photo-paper tray sits atop the tray for all other papers. The all-purpose tray can hold up to 100 sheets of plain paper and slides out for loading (convenient for loading extra paper in the middle of a big print job). The photo-paper tray can hold photo paper up to 4x6 inches.
As befitting a photo printer, the D7160 uses a six-color ink system and individual cartridges. We like the individual cartridges because they mean less waste; you don't need to throw away unused ink. The replacement color cartridges (yellow, magenta, light magenta, cyan, light cyan) cost $10 each, and the larger black cartridge costs $18. HP estimates the per-page costs to be about 2.5 cents for a monochrome page and about 7.1 cents for a color page. Using HP's Photo Value Pack, 4x6 photos cost roughly 24 cents per print. These costs are on par with the competitions'.
The HP Photosmart D7160 offers many of the same features as the D7360, though some of them are scaled down. For example, you still get six frame options on the D7160, but you don't get the color options for the frames. If you're printing from a memory card, there are a couple of ways you can go about printing photos: You can simply print all of the photos on a card individually, as 4x6, 5x7, or 8.5x11 prints. When printing on 8.5x11 paper, you can choose to print one photo per page, print several to a page (as 3.5x5, 4x6, or 5x7), or print an index. The index includes the file name and photo number, which makes it a handy reference (the video files are marked with a small video camera icon). Unfortunately, you can't sort the pictures by date range, you can only view them in the order taken.
You can also use the built-in wizard, which explains each step of the process and guides you through selecting photos, making adjustments (cropping, color effects, and so on), and choosing paper size and layout. If you're already familiar with the process, you can skip right to clicking through the contents of the card and selecting images as you go. If you have a lot of photos, you can zoom out to get a thumbnail view that shows nine images at once. The only major drawback we found was that you can't make changes to the photo unless you're in the wizard mode. An experienced user who wants to jump right in will find that she needs to take a detour through the wizard to make adjustments. The simple addition of an Edit button on the printer that took you to a photo-editing menu would go a long way toward making this printer even easier to use. The Canon Pixma iP6700D includes a Settings button that calls up a menu of editing options.
Another beef we have with this printer is the inability to produce bordered 4x6 photos when printing from a memory card. (The D7360 also suffered from this strange shortcoming.) You can printer bordered photos if you print from your PC, but that adds the extra step of transferring images from your card to your PC. It seems to be a feature that's easy enough to implement on the printer, which is why its omission is baffling.
One of the features we do like on this printer is the ability to print stills from videos. Simply play the video and pause it when you find the frame you want to print. The quality of the still images won't be as good as your regular still photos, of course, because video resolution is generally much lower than that of digital still shots.